"When I look in my son's face, I don't just see him....but I see thousands of men and women, younger and older, who have done so much, sacrificed much, and with so much to deal with ... and they don't complain."
Karen Estrada, MS is the mother of two sons, one who was in the military and the other who is still serving. She is the "voice" of the military advocating on health by blogging at "Military Health Matters."
Our guest on #hchlitss, Thursday, January 12 started off by answering the basic question:
Why does military health matter?
we owe [them a] huge/debt [of] gratitude. [There are] 2 mill[ion] volunteer mil[itary] m[em]b[e][rs!Another important difference in the returning military which impacts their health is the fact that:
Also many more mil[itary] members survived--more than Desert Storm and Vietnam in comp[arison].
[As an example] 2006-07, every 82nd unit was deployed.
Soldiers have special needs-combat, disability mentalhealth. Many surviv[ed] that w[ou]ldn't h[a]v[e] before.
What are the top 3 challenges civilian health care professionals and military members encounter?
Women veterans repr[esent] 8% [of the military] but [their] risk factors [are greater] than their male counterparts.
And the huge instit[utional] hurdles, [3 top challenges are] DoD [Department of Defense], VA [Veterans Administration] and Academia.
Can you explain how the three [institutions] are connected?
DoD and VA have had [to] coordinate, they were very sep[arate in the]past. Academia [and] major med[ical] c[e]nters [are more and more] caring [for] veterans.
Shortage of M[edical] H[ealth] in Military/VA; [using] civilian mental health[care is}]charting new territory, [for the] military culture[it's an issue of] trust.
Civilian med[ical] folks do a lot of the care...! [There are] Major shortages in Mil[itary] andVA [there are] long wait time[s].
But military & VA are w[o]rking very hard! [There are] also Nat[ional] Guard/Res[ervists who] see civilian healthcare prov[iders].... because of [the] proximity
They have been comb[ining] VA w[ith] DoD: Warrior Transition BNs[Battalions] to help expedite [care].
I'm worried [that the] sheer [numbers] will [be greater than the military can handle we will be more] overwh[e]lm[ed] than [we] already [are]
How did the collaboration come about?
Academia & private practice have really stepped up too! For example: "Give An Hour" ... many gr[ea]t volunteers [are] donating their time! what is the saying "necessity [is the mother of ]invention...." I think [there is] gr[ea]t outreach because of the great number of veterans needing help.
What is (or is not) being done to bridge the gap between civilian healthcare professionals and military members?
Quite a bit. I posted lots of resources from gr[ea]t sources @realwarriors [for example:] self-instruction on military life
But civilian health care need to understand [the] diff[erence] between [the]"Warrior Mentality" and [the] general population. mentalhealth
For example: indicators of suicide [are] very different in military versus civilians. [A] veteran expl[ained] to me the 'mindset' of how soldier shows no signs indic[ating] suicide, [then]gets up one day [and] kills themselves. I thought it was hopelessness. But [a] s[er]v[ice] m[em]b[e]r becomes so cut off from their own feelings, they don't even feel that any more :-(
This happens over [and] over again. They have to have battle-mind [to be] ready [for]deployment [and to] b[e] deployed. [It's] Hard to transition back.
Are you concerned about the effect of PTSD on returning Vets and their families?
[Very]concerned w[ith the] ability to access care when needed...I like to refer to PTSD as PTS. Even the military now is understanding this. The reactions to combat stress are so normal! However, if they interfere w[ith] their quality/\ [of] life, work [and] family, etc. then it becomes a 'problem'. When the deploy[ments] finally stop...
[Symptoms] of PTSD...can vary from w[ithd[rawal], to antagonism, antisocial [behavior], [to] substance abuse (self-medicating).
Participants who work with servicemen at the VA and in hospitals brought up some serious concerns, for example
I am watching the effect of PTSD on vets and families. Daily witness of the devastation.
Unemployment and homelessness for returning vets is serious problem.Invisible conditions, like head injury and mental illness are real concerns.
When asked about her sons in the military, Karen replied,
my eldest is active duty army/SFC/on his 5th deployment. He has changed but understands the changes/& talks... my younger son wasn't in a long time, but is close to his brother. Communication in the family is imp[ortant]. EDUCATION and health lit[earcy] is the BEST tool ... when p[eo]pl[e] understand what is happening to them [or to their] loved one they can deal w[ith] it [or] begin to deal with it. I've learned a lot over p[a]st 10 y[ea]rs w[ith] my son and leading a family support gr[ou]p.
Is there any need for concern about those returning getting jobs during this recession "recovery"?
...the veterans unemployment rate [is greater than the] national average. Many good p[eo]pl[e] volunteered but now don't have [the] edu[cation] for jobs. They are smart, but it is hard sometimes to transition from 'infantry' to a job at a desk, e.g
The war isn't even over yet (1 is...) but there will be a HUGE need!
Any final thoughts?
Sometimes when I start to complain about some stupid thing (which I do less of now...), I stop to think about what our troops have experienced, are still experiencing, and will continue to ...
Our service members and veterans deserve the great respect and gratitude of us all, regardless of [our] opinions of war. I encourage civilian practioners to talk with veterans to get a sense of what they've experienced.
Karen Estrada, MS is someone that the civilian medical community can turn to for information on military health. Please visit her website: Military Health Matters for further information. Thank you, Karen, for being with #hchlitss on Thursday, January 12, 2012